Travel deals in N.Y., Chicago and Puerto Rico

Monday, March 5, 2012

Travel deals in N.Y., Chicago and Puerto Rico

The deal: The Hotel Athenee in New York is offering the Savage Beauty package to celebrate the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty" exhibit.
Cost: Starting at $1,045 per night for single or double occupancy.
What's included: Deluxe room or classic suite accommodations; daily continental breakfast for two; welcome gift of "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" hardcover book; two priority guest passes to the Met and the exhibit; choice of a 50-minute massage or a 50-minute facial.
When: May 4 through July 31.

The deal: The Affinia Chicago is offering a Shop 'Til You Drop package.
Cost: Starting at $229 per room, per night.
What's included: $50 gift card for 900 North Michigan Shops; two cocktails at C-House or C-View; gift bag with a coffee mug, mini wallet and offers from stores; $25 credit for SPAffinia in-room pedicures or massages; complimentary makeup consultation and custom-blended lip color at Mario Tricoci; overnight parking and accommodations.
When: Through Sept. 6.
Information: name=Shop-Til-You-Drop-Affinia-Chicago.
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The deal: The La Concha Resort in Puerto Rico is offering the LUXE at the Suites package.
Cost: $195 per night.
What's included: $50 debit card per stay; 20 percent off choice of in-room or beach massage; two poolside cocktails; La Concha Candela CD; 20 percent off Dragonfly Adventure Tours; and 15 percent off regular rates in all new Suite Tower suites (this discount is applied to the rate when booking).
When: June 1 to Sept. 30.

Travel to Ireland For $599

Ireland: Tour Dublin, Limerick, Blarney and more for $599 per person
The Cliffs of Moher are one of the stops on the Irish Jaunt, an escorted tour that's discounted in April.(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Last-minute travel can have its pitfalls -- and its perks. Here's a tour of Ireland that rewards procrastinators with a $200 discount on two departures in April.

The deal: The five-day, escorted Irish Jaunt tour stops in Dublin, Blarney, Killarney and Limerick, with visits to the Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher as well. The price, which doesn't include airfare, is $599, including tax, per person based on double occupancy. It includes airport transfers, four nights in hotels, four breakfasts, one dinner, motor coach tours and other sightseeing extras. Use the code BRIJ11 when making a reservation.

When: The discount is good only for the April 9 and April 30 departures.

Tested: Brendan Vacations' website offers a detailed itinerary and overview of the trip, but you have to call to make a reservation. I called Tuesday morning and found spaces available for both April dates at the discount rate. The total cost was $599 per person, with a one-time $10 document fee per booking; travel insurance and airfare are extra.

Discover Dubai's beauty, mystique

Discover Dubai's beauty, mystique

CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at travel locations for the explorer at heart. This week, we're taking a look at Dubai, United Arab Emirates. We'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals and the best photos and stories from readers. Have you been to Dubai? Share your story with CNN iReport.

I have been in Dubai for almost 10 years, and every time I receive a friend who is visiting for a day or two, I discover new and unique adventures.

As one of the seven small emirates in the United Arab Emirates, it has managed to put itself on the international map relatively quickly.

In the last two decades, Dubai became very popular and attractive to a lot of globetrotters, business people and media for many different reasons.

If you're thinking about visiting, here are some tips to help you escape into the mystical world of the fabled "A Thousand and One Nights" and discover the culture, history and captivating beauty of Dubai.

Start with the 'real' part of Dubai

Dubai is often promoted as a modern architectural wonder and luxury shopping, dining and lodging destination, but first-time visitors should not miss starting their adventure with a visit to the "real part of Dubai" which is Souq Nayef (souq in Arabic means market) which is in Deira, a suburb of Dubai.

Although the government has recently demolished the old souq and rebuilt it again, you can still find the most delicious and cheapest bread, maybe in the whole UAE.

In one of the small streets, between small shops that are selling the oldest mobiles ever, you definitely smell the bread, and you will be surprised to find that it is coming from a small shop not larger than 1.5 meter by one meter. Inside it, you look up and you will find the baker, who is Afghani, asking you in mixed Arabic and Afghani words: "How many loafs do you want? (Be advised that the size of the bread is pretty big.) In few seconds you will find the hot bread is sliding down to the small window where you are standing. Take it, don't be surprised when you know that it is less than two cents and enjoy it.

Visiting 'souqs' as a real experience
For a true Dubai experience, proceed to its three popular souqs, but keep in mind that they are all tourist traps. However, they are worth visiting.

Start with the Gold Souq, where you will feel as if you are entering an Indian neighborhood, for it is run by three generations who came before the independence of the UAE in 1971, and the products are mainly Indian yellow gold. Dubai is also known as the City of Gold and for relatively cheap gold, but you will have to haggle for it.

While walking towards a creek, a Gulf inlet, you can clearly smell spices, originating from the next souq, in which you will be introduced by the smiley Iranian merchants to an array of spices, such as cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and, of course, Iranian saffron.

Here you are only a few steps away from an abra station. The abra is a small crossing boat. Hop onto one of them, ignore the smell of the diesel and head to the other side of the creek, disembarking at the textile and curio-filled covered souq in Bur Dubai.

If you explore the streets further back, into the heart of the dizzyingly-colorful Textile Souq, you will find a real community feel. Here you will also see tailors working on old-fashioned sewing machines.

Definitely, it is time for you to eat, but no need yet to go to the fancy hotel. Choose any of the small restaurants and grab a radiantly Turkish meal, but done in Indian style: a chicken Shawerma sandwich with potato and lots of pickles, together with fresh juice.

It is highly recommended, however, to avoid the weekend crowds in these places if you can.

A unique shopping experience comes next, not in the regular big shopping malls that are known in Dubai, but rather in Karama, one of the liveliest areas in this glitzy emirate.

The Karama souq is mostly known for its "copy" items -- knockoffs of everything from souvenirs to watches, such as Rolex or Omega, and of course the latest women's handbags, like Louis Vuitton.

Remember again that once you see something that catches your attention, make sure you bargain because the price they offer you is a lot more than you should actually pay.

Desert dunes, Burj Khalifa are must to visit
It is time now to enjoy the desert, so a three-hour safari trip in the middle of the dunes is a must.

If you are into heights, you may like trying the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, in the newly-built "Old Town" area. The tower's observation deck at the top offers unforgettable views.

While there, enjoy the Dancing Fountain on a lake outside the Burj (Burj means tower in Arabic) and choreographed water shows, which are put on multiple times each evening.

Traditional seafood meals worth trying
Seeing the multinational cuisines in Old Town and experiencing the other adventures will make you feel hungry, so go for it.

Food is really an enjoyable experience in Dubai, as you will find almost all cuisines available in the small cosmopolitan city.

So, if you like seafood, then a must-try is a fish cooked the traditional way, which is either salt cured (called Maleh), sun-dried (Al kaseef) or ground-dried fish (Sahnah).

Before midnight go to one of the local souvenir shops and get a small gift, like the seven colors sand bottle that represents the seven emirates in the UAE.

Time to live the luxury life

Now, if you are into opulence, try one of the palaces, such as Burj al Arab, the One & Only Royal Mirage, the Atlantis or the newly opened Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel and Resort, and enjoy the luxury like a sheikh or a sheikha.

There is a lot to see and experience but this is only a teaser, leaving you with one question: Do you think the "A Thousand and One Nights" came alive in Dubai?

If you've ever visited Dubai, share your photos, videos and travel tips with CNN iReport.

Travel to Switzerland

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Travel to Switzerland

(German: Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansch: Svizra) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It has borders with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and Germany to the north.

The climate is temperate, but varies with altitude. Switzerland has cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters and cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.

Switzerland is known for its mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) but it also has a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes. The highest point is Dufourspitze at 4,634 m while Lake Maggiore is only 195 m above sea level.

Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

Switzerland showcases three of Europe's most distinct cultures. To the northeast is the beer-drinking, sausage-eating German-speaking Switzerland; to the south-west the wine drinking and shopping spills effortlessly into France; in the south-east the sun warms cappuccino-sippers loitering in Italian-style plazas; and in the center: classic Swiss flugelhorns and mountain landscapes. Binding it all together is a distinct Swiss mentality.

Switzerland can be a glorious whirlwind trip whether you've packed your hiking boots, snowboard, or just a good book and a pair of sunglasses.

Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP larger than that of the big Western European economies. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness. Switzerland remains a safe haven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value. Reflecting the anemic economic conditions of Europe, GDP growth dropped in 2001 to about 0.8%, to 0.2% in 2002, and to -0.3% in 2003, with a small rise to 1.8% in 2004-05. Even so, unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.

The capital city of Berne
Zurich - Switzerland's biggest city and a major center of banking also has a thriving nightlife.
Geneva - This center of arts and culture, the second-largest city in Switzerland, is by far the international capital-- home to around 200 governmental and non-governmental organizations. Geneva was the home of John Calvin during the Reformation, elevating the city to the rank of "Protestant Rome," the effects of which drive Geneva today.
Berne - The Swiss capital features an amazingly well preserved old-town with arcades along almost every street. Great restaurants abound, as do bars and clubs. Check out the Einstein sites as well.
Basel - Slightly smaller than Geneva, Switzerland's third city is the traveler's gateway to the German Rhineland and Alsace.
Lausanne - While Geneva is busy being the international capital, Lausanne fills the role in most of the rest of French-speaking Switzerland. Scenery, dining, dancing, boating and the Swiss wine-country are the draws.
Lugano - Italian-speaking Switzerland's top destination, with a gorgeous old-town and a pretty lake. The food is simply amazing.
Lucerne - Central Switzerland's main city with direct water links to all of the early Swiss historic sights. It's pretty too, and though it is heavily touristed the views and museums make putting up with the crowds well worthwhile.

Regions of Switzerland

By Airplane
Major international airports are in Zurich, Geneva and Basel, with smaller airports in Lugano and Berne. Flying into nearby Milan (Italy), Lyon or even Paris (France) or Frankfurt (Germany) are other options though rather expensive and time-consuming (3h Frankfurt-Basel, 4h Milan-Zurich, 5h Paris-Berne) by train. Some discount airlines fly to Friedrichshafen, Germany which is just across Lake Constance (the Bodensee) from Romanshorn, not too far from Zurich. The Flagcarrier of Switzerland is SWISS which is a member of Star Alliance and successor of the famous Swissair.
By train
Trains arrive from all parts of Europe. Switzerland is together with Germany one of the most central-lying countries in Europe, making it a center of railways and highways to the rest of Europe. Some major routes include:

The TGV, with several trains daily from Paris, Avignon, Dijon, and Nice.
Hourly trains to/from Milan with connections to all parts of Italy
Hourly ICE (German high-speed trains) from Zurich to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Frankfurt in Germany, many continuing toward Amsterdam, Hamburg or Berlin.
Regular ICE trains from Zurich to Stuttgart and Munich
Night trains from Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Vienna, Belgrade, Barcelona Rome and Venice to Basel, Geneva, Zurich and some also to Lausanne. These trains are either "EuroNight" (symbol: EN) or CityNightLine (symbol: CNL) services

By bus
Eurolines has incorporated Switzerland in its route network.
Due to the Bosnian war in the 1990'ies there are several bus companies serving the Bosnian diaspora, which provide a cheap and clean way of getting to the Balkans. Turistik Prošić runs from various destinations in the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina to Switzerland.

By car
Common tourist destinations within Switzerland are easily reachable by car, e.g. Geneva from central eastern France, and Zurich from southern Germany. Although Switzerland is now part of the Schengen agreement, it is not part of the EU customs/tariff union. Therefore EU/Swiss border posts will focus on smuggling etc. and checks on main roads will remain in place even after 2008. Delays are usually short but cars may be stopped and no reason needs to be named. Some delay may be caused by queuing at busy times and there are often queues lasting hours to use the tunnels under the Alps from Italy such as Mont Blanc, Gotthard etc. Swiss motorway vignettes can and should be purchased at the border if your car does not already have a valid one for the year and you intend to use the Swiss motorways which is almost unavoidable.

By plane
The following carriers offer domestic flights within Switzerland:
SWISS (Basel/Mulhouse (EuroAirport Swiss), Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport, Zurich Airport)
Darwin Airlines (Berne (Belp Airport), Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport)
FlyBaboo website (Geneva (Geneve-Cointrin Airport), Lugano Airport)

But in almost every case you will be better off taking the train.

Public transport
The Swiss will spoil you with fantastic transportation - swift, disturbingly punctual trains, clean buses, and a half dozen different kinds of mountain transport systems, integrated into a coherent system. The discount options and variety of tickets can be bewildering, from half fare cards to multi-day, multi-use tickets good for buses, boats, trains, and even bike rentals. In general there's at least one train or bus per hour on every route, on many routes trains and buses are running every 30 min, but as with everything in Switzerland the transit runs less often, or at least for a shorter period of the day, on Sundays. Authoritative information, routes, and schedules can be found at or from a ticket window in any train station.

Almost nobody in Switzerland pays full fare for the transit system. At the very least they all have a Half-Fare Card (Demi-tarif/Halbtax) which saves you 50% on all national buses and trains and gives a discount on local and private transit systems. Press the '1/2' button on the ticket machines to indicate you have this card, and be prepared to hand it to the conductor along with your ticket on the train. Annual half fare cards cost CHF165; visitors from abroad can buy a 1-month Half-Fare Card cards for CHF99. You save CHF 57 on a round-trip ticket from Zurich to Lugano, so if you are planning on traveling a lot, it will quickly pay for itself. Children between ages 6 and 16 pay 1/2 price for travel around Switzerland.

The next step up from a half-fare card is a Swisspass, which grants you access to all national bus and rail, all city transit systems, and hefty discount on privately operated boats, cable cars, and ski lifts. These range from CHF 260 for a 4-day, 2nd class pass to CHF 578 for a month pass, 2nd class. Like the half-fare, you can buy this from any train station ticket office.

Only two trains in Switzerland require reservations: Bernina Express, running daily between Chur and Tirano and the Glacier Express running from St. Moritz to Zermatt.

On most trains in Switzerland, tickets can be bought on board, but with a surcharge of CHF 10, so it is recommended to buy tickets before hand. Though this does not apply for the suburb trains (you'll get fined if you haven't got a ticket). Swiss Rail kiosks accept credit/debit cards, although they require that a PIN be entered. You can also buy a ticket on the Swiss Federal Railway website or on the SBB iPhone app.

Map of languages in Switzerland

Using the trains is easy, although the number of different kinds of trains can be a bit confusing unless you know that the schedules at a Swiss train station are color coded. The yellow sheet is for departures and the white sheet is for arrivals. Faster trains appear on both of these sheets in red, while the trains in black stop at more stations. For long trips it is often easier to use the website, as it will pick transfers for you. You need not fear transfers of five minutes or less. You will make them, provided you know exactly which platform you arrive on and which one you depart from. Many Swiss commute with a one or two minute transfer!

At the track, the signs indicate the destination and departure time. The small numbers and letters along the bottom show you where you can board the train. The letters indicate the zone you should stand in, and the numbers indicate the class. The class (1st or 2nd) is indicated by a "1" or "2" on the side of the car, these correspond with the numbers on the sign. All Swiss trains are non-smoking — this is also indicated on the side of car, as well as inside.

Luggage can be stowed above your seat or in between seats, or on a rack at the end of the car. During busy periods, people often stow large luggage (or skis) in the entrance area in between cars. This is usually fairly safe, but use common sense.

The variety of trains is bewildering at first, but is actually quite simple. The routes the SBB-CFF-FFS website suggests will make much more sense if you understand them. All trains have a one or two letter prefix, followed by a number, for example RE2709, IR2781. Only the prefix, the destination, and the time of departure are important.

Regio/Régional (R) trains are local trains. They stop everywhere or almost everywhere, and generally reach into the hinterlands of a major station like Lausanne, but not to the next major station (in this case Geneva). If you are going to a small town, you may transfer at a large station to an R train for the last leg. Often you can use tickets from city public transit on the S system, but ask before trying.

RE (RegioExpress) trains generally reach from one major station to the next, touching every town of any importance on the way, but don't stop at every wooden platform beside the tracks.
IR (InterRegio) trains are the workhorses of Swiss transit. They reach across two or three cantons, for instance from Geneva, along Lake Geneva through Vaud, and all the way to Brig at the far end of the Valais. They only stop at fairly large towns, usually those that boast three or four rail platforms.

IC (InterCity) trains are express trains with restaurant cars. They are sumptuous and comfortable, often putting vaunted services like the TGV to shame, and make runs between major stations, with occasionally stops at a more minor one where tracks diverge.
ICN trains (InterCityNeigezug, or Intercity Tilting Train) are the express tilt-trains, as luxurious as the IC trains. They run between major cities like Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, Biel, and Basel.

There are also a number of narrow gauge railways that don't fit this classification that supplement the buses in the hinterlands, such as the line from Nyon to La Cure or the line from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen.

You can bring your bicycle on every train in Switzerland, with two provisos: you must have a ticket for it (available from the ticket machines, CHF 10 for a day pass), and you must get on at a door marked with a bicycle. On ICN trains and some IR trains this is at the very front of the train.

As good as the Swiss train system is, if you have a little time, and you only want to travel 1-200 miles, you could try purchasing the world's best footpath maps and walk 10-20 miles a day over some of the most wonderful and clearly-marked paths, whether it is in a valley, through a forest, or over mountains.

The trails are well-planned (after a number of centuries, why not?), easy to follow, and the yellow trail signs are actually accurate in their estimate as to how far away the next hamlet, village, town or city is--once you've figured out how many kilometers per hour you walk (easy to determine after a day of hiking).

There are plenty of places to sleep in a tent (but don't pitch one on a seemingly pleasant, flat piece of ground covered by straw--that's where the cows end up sleeping after a lazy day of eating, and they'll gnaw at your tent string supports and lean against your tent sides. And definitey don't do this during a rainstorm!), lots of huts on mountain tops, B & B's on valley floors, or hotels in towns and cities. You could even send your luggage ahead to the next abode and travel very lightly, with the necessary water and Swiss chocolate!

Switzerland has some universites of world renown, like ETH in Zurich, University of Lausanne or the University of St. Gallen (also known as the HSG). Keep in mind, it's much better to speak the local language, so if you can't speak either French, German or Italian, better go for a language course first. There are a few English courses as well, but it will be much easier to go with local language. Also have in mind that if you're a foreigner, and you want to go for popular subjects, you have to pass entry-tests, and it will cost you a lot, not only for university fees, but also for living.

If you like cheaper learning, go for Migros Klubschule, they offer language courses in almost every language as well as a lot of different courses for many subjects, just have a look on their website. You may also want to try the different "Volkshochschule", which offer a large variety of subjects at very reasonable fees (such as in Zurich, for instance).

If you are looking for quality French courses for adults or juniors, you can learn French in one of the ESL schools centres located in Switzerland. You can also choose LSI (Language Studies International) and go for one of the many schools in their extensive network to learn French in Switzerland.For more info about Best 5 colleges in Switzerland

If you want to work in Switzerland, be aware that you generally need to obtain a work permit.

Switzerland signed an agreement with the European Union that allows citizens of the old EU-15 states to work and search jobs at arms length with Swiss citizens. In these cases you only need a valid passport and have to register with the local administration. The same system applies in general to citizens of the new EU-10 states (Eastern European states in general) plus Bulgaria and Romania but there are limitations on the number of permits. For all other countries in the world the best way is to check with your embassy if there are, for example, exchange programs.

Switzerland has an unemployment rate of about 4.2% (Mar. 2010) and skilled academics will have good job opportunities.

The high level of Swiss salaries reflect the high costs of living, so keep in mind that you must spend a lot for accommodation and food, when you negotiate your salary. Still, if you want or have to make money fast, you can save a substantial amount per month while working in a low-paying job. In general, you work 42 hours/week and have 4 weeks of paid holidays.

Switzerland has no legal minimum salary. The salary depends on the industry you work in, with most companies paying at least 3500 CHF per month, for example as cashier in a supermarket. Overtime work is usually paid (unless otherwise agreed in contract).

If you want to check the average salaries by industry or make sure you get the right amount paid, Swiss employees are heavy organized in trade unions SGB and always keen to help you.

Most tourist areas in Switzerland have a tourist office where you can call and have them book a hotel for you for a small fee. Each town usually has a comprehensive list of hotels on their web site, and it is often easiest to simply call down the list to make a reservation rather than try to book online. Many hotels will request that you fax or email them your credit card information in order to secure a reservation. In general, hotel staff are helpful and competent, and speak English quite well.

Hotel rates in Switzerland can get quite expensive, especially in popular ski resort areas.

There is also a hostel network in Switzerland for students. Types of hotels in Switzerland include historic hotels, traditional hotels, inns located in the country, spas and bed and breakfasts.

Stay safe
Switzerland is not surprisingly one of the safest countries in Europe, but anywhere that attracts Rolex-wearing bankers and crowds of distracted tourists will also bring out a few pickpockets. Obviously, keep an eye on belongings, especially in the midst of summer crowds.

Quite a few Swiss establishments will print your entire credit card number onto the receipt, thus raising identity theft concerns when shopping with a credit card in Switzerland. Therefore, visitors utilizing credit cards should carefully review the information printed on all receipts prior to discarding them. This happens, for instance, in some book and clothing stores and even at the ubiquitous K-Kiosk. This list is obviously not exhaustive; therefore, the visitor must beware whenever using a credit card.

Women traveling alone should have no problems. The younger Swiss tend to be very open with public displays of affection - sometimes too open, and some women may find people getting too friendly especially in the wee hours of the club & bar scene. Usually the international language of brush-offs or just walking away is enough.

Swiss police take on a relatively unobtrusive air; they prefer to remain behind the scenes, as they consider their presence potentially threatening to the overall environment (practice of deescalation). Unlike some more highly policed countries, officers will rarely approach civilians to ask if they need help or merely mark their presence by patrolling. However, police are indeed serious about traffic violations. Jaywalking (crossing a red pedestrian light), for example, will be fined on the spot. The upside to stringent traffic rules is that automobile drivers are generally very well-disciplined, readily stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks, for example (but note that, in Basel city at least, whilst the cross-walks give priority to pedestrians many drivers will stop on and reverse over cross-walks without much care or attention). Generally, you are safe anywhere at any time. If, for any reason, you feel threatened, seek a near restaurant or telephone booth. The emergency phone number in Switzerland is 117, and operators are generally English-speaking.

Football (soccer) games are the only notable exception to the above rule. Due to the potential threat of hooligan violence, these games (esp. in Basel or Zurich) are generally followed by a large contingent of police officers with riot gear, rubber bullets, and tear gas, in case of any major unrest.

Switzerland has very strong Good Samaritan laws, making it a civic duty to help a fellow in need (without unduly endangering oneself). People are therefore very willing and ready to help you if you appear to be in an emergency situation. Be aware, though, that the same applies to you if you witness anyone in danger. The refusal to help to a person in need can be punishable by law as "Verweigerung der Hilfeleistung", i.e. refusal of aid. The general reservation of Americans to avoid entanglement with strangers due to possible future civil liability does not apply in Switzerland, for it would be practically impossible to wage a civil suit against anyone providing aid.

The drinking age for beer, wine and alcoholic cider is 16 (but not in all cantons, so make sure to ask before buying) while the age for any other alcohol (e.g. spirits, "alcopops",...) is 18. The public consumption of alcohol in Switzerland is legal, so do not be alarmed if you see a group of teenagers drinking a six-pack on public property; this is by no means out of the ordinary and should not be interpreted as threatening.

Switzerland is not a country of insane civil lawsuits and damage claims; consequently, if you see a sign or disclaimer telling you not to do something, obey it! An example: in many alpine areas, charming little mountain streams may be flanked by signs with the message "No Swimming". To the uninitiated, this may seem a bit over the top, but these signs are in fact a consequence to the presence of hydroelectric power plants further upstream that may discharge large amounts of water without warning.

In mountain areas, be sure to inquire about weather conditions at the tourist information office or local train station as you head out in the morning. They should be well informed about severe weather conditions and will advise you about possible avalanche areas.

There have been problems with police assuming that any Black, East European, or Arab person without an ID card or passport is an illegal immigrant, and treating them accordingly. That could be a considerable problem if you are travelling alone.

Stay healthy
Generally there is no problem with food and water in Switzerland. Restaurants are controlled by strict rules. Water is drinkable everywhere, even out of public fountains unless specially marked. There are many organic food stores and restaurants available and it's currently illegal to sell any genetically modified food.

RespectLearning the mother tongue of the area you will be staying in is a great sign of respect. English is widely spoken in Switzerland, but any attempt to speak the local language is always appreciated, even if you're replied to in English. It’s always polite to ask if they speak English before starting a conversation.

Make an effort to at least learn Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank You in the language of the region you will be traveling in. "I would like..." is also a phrase that will help you. If you are in the German speaking region of Switzerland, it is generally wise to try to communicate in German rather than attempting to speak Alemannic. The German Swiss almost instinctively switch to German once they notice that they are speaking to a foreigner.

German, French, and Italian all have formal and informal forms of the word you, which changes the conjugation of verb you use, and sometimes phrases. For example, the informal phrase don't worry about it in French is ne t'en fais pas and the formal is ne vous en faites pas. The formal is used to show respect to someone who is older than you, who you consider to be a superior, someone who has a greater rank than you at work, or simply a stranger in the street. The informal is used with close friends, relatives, and peers.

As a general rule, you shouldn't use the informal with someone you don't know well, someone who is your superior in rank, or an elder.

Use the informal with your close friends and younger people. Peers can be a gray area, and it is advisable to use the formal at first until they ask you to use the informal.

Friends kiss each other on the cheek three times (left - right - left). This is the usual thing to do when being introduced to someone in the French and German speaking part. If it is a business related meeting you just shake hands. Don't be shy as you if you reject the advance it appears awkward and rude on your part. You don't have to actually touch your lips the skin after-all, as a fake kiss will do.

Do not litter. While Switzerland will not fine you (as in Singapore), littering is definitely seen as bad behaviour in this country and in general in German speaking Europe or Central Europe for that matter. Also make sure that you put it in the correctly labeled bin (e.g. recyclable). Some bins actually have times to when this should be done to avoid excess noise!

Be punctual. That means no more than one minute late, if that! Not surprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time.

Many of the internet cafes that have emerged in the 1990's have closed since, probably because Switzerland has one of the highest rate of high-speed internet connections in homes in the world, but almost any video rental shop and most train stations will have a few internet terminals. The tourist office should be able to direct you to the nearest one. The going rate is 5 CHF for 20 minutes. Also, you can send email, SMS (text messages to cell phones) or short text faxes from just about every public phone booth for less that 1 CHF. Some public phone booths allow you to browse the internet. There are many shopping centers and cities (Lausanne and Vevey for example) that offer free wireless internet access: ask the young locals, maybe they know where to go.

The public phones are surprisingly cheap, and have no surcharge for credit cards.

If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 Mhz bands - they usually cost around 10-40 CHF and are obtainable in the shops of the mobile service providers Swisscom, Orange or Sunrise in most cities. Mobile network coverage is close to 100% by area, even in the mountainous, non-populated areas.

There are also a lot of cheap prepaid cards for local calls from other providers. The prepaid cards of the big supermarket chains Migros (M-Budget-Mobile) and Coop ( Coop Mobile) for example cost around 20 CHF and include already 15 CHF airtime. The cheapest prepaid card for calls within Switzerland is Aldi Mobile0,14 CHF/min Switzerland fixed and Aldi mobile, 0,34 CHF/min other mobiles. The cheapest prepaid card for international communication is yallo: 0,39 CHF/min within Switzerland as well as to all European and many more countries (to the mobile and fixed networks). This includes the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. SMS cost 0,10 CHF. The prepaid cards can be bought online (30 CHF with 30 CHF airtime inclusive), in most post offices (29 CHF with 20 CHF airtime inclusive) or Sunrise shops (20 CHF with 20 CHF airtime inclusive). An other prepaid card with cheap rates offers Lebara Mobile (Sister concern of Sunrise). The prepaid card is available for 5 CHF with an equivalent talk time and recharge vouchers offer the talktime equivalent to the price of the voucher.

Five mouthwatering ice cream tours

Five mouthwatering ice cream tours
By Ashley Strickland

With hot summer days ahead, what better way to treat yourself than enjoying a childhood indulgence: ice cream. From decadently sweet to decidedly sinful, the flavors are endless, and a good ice cream shop is never too far away.

This summer, try an ice cream tour. From well-known brands to bucolic family farms, tours of ice cream dairies and factories are just waiting to be explored.

Hansen Dairy -- Hudson, Iowa

Owned and operated by the Hansen family since 1861, the Farm Fresh Dairy offers guests a hands-on tour of the working farm and dairy.

In addition to the usual farm sights, from baby calves to milking parlors to cow barns, guests can also see the creamery, the Hansen farm equipment and even domesticated wallabies that live on the farm. The dish of ice cream you receive at the end is made right there.

Visitors to Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy in Hudson, Iowa, can see animals during a hands-on tour.

You can request for the tour to be hands-on, meaning in addition to the regular activities, you can also feed a calf, milk a cow by hand, make homemade butter and pet a wallaby.

Tours are available Monday through Saturday all year long, but visitors are encouraged to come late March to early November. The walk-through tour is $6, the hands-on experience is $10. Be sure tomake an appointment.

If the complimentary ice cream isn't enough, you can also visit Moo Roo in Waterloo, just nine miles up the road. That's Hansen's retail store, which includes their complete dairy line, ice cream, soft-serve, ice cream pies and cakes and their Moo Roo signature chocolate cake roll with ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's -- Waterbury, Vermont

The Flavor Graveyard at Ben & Jerry's is a popular attraction for visitors.

Serving up creative scoops since 1978, Ben & Jerry's is still a beloved American ice cream institution. Their popular tour takes groups of 40 visitors on 30-minute guided trips through their famed Waterbury Factory.

It begins in the Cow Over the Moon theater with a company history movie about founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Venture on to a glassed-in mezzanine overlooking the ice cream production room and learn about the manufacturing process. A tour wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Flavoroom to sample the flavor of the day.

During the summer, optional outdoor activities include visiting cows in the pasture, picnicking and visiting the Flavor Graveyard to mourn the loss of concoctions past. Also, don't forget to visit the full-service scoop shop for your new favorite flavor.

Visit their website for seasonal hours. Ticket prices are kid friendly -- ages 12 and younger are free admission, $3 for adults and $2 for senior citizens.

Boulder Ice Cream -- Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Ice Cream offers up organic flavors.

For the health-conscious ice cream indulger, Boulder offers organic cool treats that are 100% natural, meaning no ingredient name has "more than three syllables."

Located five minutes from downtown Boulder, the factory offers tours every Friday and Saturday. Visitors can learn how ice cream is made, enjoy a free ice cream tasting and wrap things up in the "Colorado Natural Products" gift shop.

Popular flavors of their organic ice cream include Island Coconut, Mexican Chocolate and Green Tea.

The tour is free, but it's by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead.

Homeland Creamery -- Julian, North Carolina

Homeland Dairy offers a hayride overview of the farm to begin the tour.

A genuine farm tour, this 90-minute excursion begins by giving visitors a hayride view of the farm, from crops in the field to cows in the pasture. Watching baby cows being bottle-fed is a special treat.

Other experiences include getting to milk a "simulated" cow and walking through the milk parlor. Owner/operators Chris, Jayne, David and Terry Bowman aim to enlighten guests about how milk products go from cow to the consumer.

Of course, the tour ends with a sample from their own creamery-made ice cream.

While no weekend tours are available, the farm is open Monday through Friday, with tours beginning at 10 a.m. Admission is $6 a person, ages 2 and older.

Hilmar Cheese Company -- Hilmar, California

Visitors to Hilmar Cheese Company can enjoy ice cream while they tour the factory.

Don't be fooled by the name -- this cheese company, founded in 1984, also has cool creamy treats on the premises.

While the Hilmar guided tour mainly highlights the cheese-making process, an impressive all-inclusive experience, visitors can request the Family Fun Ice Cream Activity as well.

After the tour, you can create and eat your own ice cream. Basic ingredients for vanilla ice cream are put in "magic jars." If you follow directions and shake properly, the "magic" happens.

"It's really fun," said Denise Skidmore, director of education and public relations at Hilmar. "If you end up with a milkshake, obviously you've done something wrong. This experience is all about learning the old-fashioned process."

The tour is free, but the activity is $3. Summer tours are Monday through Friday at 11 a.m., beginning June 6 and going through August 26.

80 things we wish we knew before we started traveling

80 things we wish we knew before we started traveling
By Carlo Alcos
Hindsight is 20/20, right? Well, foresight can be near to it when you have the expertise of some seriously savvy travelers at your fingertips. Like the Matador team.

If you're starting out on your first trip, this is for you. Hell, even if it's your 20th trip, this is for you too. I know I learned a lot putting it together.

On preparing for your trip

1. Print your entire itinerary and flight tickets/confirmations. Store these with your passports. You can't always rely on Internet access or electricity to pull this info off your phone or laptop.

2. Keep a copy of your passport and never have all of your forms of identification or access to cash (ATM/credit cards) in the same bag. If that one gets lost or stolen, you are SOL.

3. Check in with friends and family from time to time, especially when traveling alone. It's a good idea for someone to always know where your next movements are, just in case.

On talking to airline agents

4. Always be patient and polite. This person could be the difference between you getting the flight that night or having to spend it on the airport floor.

Bad: "Can you get me on the next flight out -- I can't miss my connection to Europe!"

Good: "Excuse me, Barbara. I totally understand you guys are slammed right now, but if you have one minute, I'd really appreciate if you could try to get me on that next flight out, otherwise I'll miss my international connection. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much."

5. Call the airline if you're getting stonewalled, and find an agent that is willing to help you. Keep calling until you get the answer you want. Many times agents are trained differently and some are better than others.

Matador: The global voluntourists bucket list

On budgeting abroad

6. Travel in low season. In places like Thailand and India, food and accommodation can be half the price. And there is still plenty of sunshine.

7. Use the Share-a-bill iPhone app when traveling with friends. It helps to track who spends what so no more arguing about money.

8. Track your spending. If you have a laptop, use a spreadsheet and set up some simple formulas to automatically add up your purchases. Or simply write it all down in your journal. Be vigilant.

9. Set up a new account to pull from on the road. Limit yourself to that, so when it's gone, you come home.

10. Check your bank account options. Withdrawing overseas can be a huge cost, so make sure you know the fees. It might be worth it to upgrade to a premium account that includes international ATM withdrawals (and sometimes your service fee can be waived if you keep a minimum amount in the account).

11. Know the exchange rate of your destination countries ahead of time.

12. Don't use traveler's checks. These are a pain to cash in, and the fees can be very costly.

13. Have local currency when you arrive (preferably small denominations). Having to exchange money at the airport when you land is expensive. If you do have to exchange at the airport, shop around a bit if possible. The first one you encounter is likely to be the most expensive.

14. Try your hardest to avoid currency exchange places. The exchange rate at these are the worst, especially in airports and train stations. Always better to get the local currency from an ATM.

15. Buy food and booze at large grocery stores, instead of going out to bars and restaurants.

16. Do research ahead of time and book a reservation at a hostel that is both nice and inexpensive. Walking around with a backpack on looking for a cheaper place to stay isn't fun when you're exhausted from traveling all day.

17. Check out Craigslist, HomeAway, Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO), and AirBnB for apartments to rent in the places you're visiting -- these are often cheaper than hotels and hostels.

18. Use Couchsurfing for free accommodations. [*Note: Never use this site solely for free accommodations. The main purpose is cultural exchange and to meet people. Reciprocate if possible when you return home.]

19. Don't book domestic flights at the same time you get your international flights. Booking close to the departure dates from inside the country can be much cheaper.

For example, flying into Kathmandu from New York is really expensive if you make that your destination and book from the US. It is much cheaper to fly from JFK to Bangkok, spend a night or two, and then book the flight from BKK to Kathmandu on a local Asian airline.

On meeting people when traveling alone
20. Use Couchsurfing to meet folks for coffee or tea or to join in a group event. If you're hesitant about it, check out Overcome Your Fear: How to Practice Safe Couchsurfing.

21. Sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with the bartender. They're possibly bored, know a lot about the town and might introduce you to other regulars.

22. Stay in a hostel, even if you want to stay in a private room. You can always meet people in the common areas.

23. Share information with other travelers. What goes around comes around. When you give others a leg up, it comes back to you down the road.

[*Note: Meeting people is never compulsory. Don't feel bad if you're not up for it.]

On researching a trip vs winging it

24. Be flexible, situations can change very fast and you don't want to miss out on things if you have a rigid plan.

25. Research Couchsurfing and similar sites to find forums for cities you plan on traveling through. Ask locals and expats questions. You might even make some contacts before you go. Don't forget to check the Matador Travel forums!

26. Understand you never have time to see EVERYTHING. And be okay with it.

27. If you don't have time to research or buy a guide, at least have a map, whether it's downloaded to your handheld, printed, or bought.

On adapting to a new country

28. Get out and about as much as possible. Orient yourself as soon as you can, and learn at least some basic expressions of the language ASAP. Taking a course locally can help with meeting people, too.

29. Talk to the front desk staff at your hostel (if you're staying in one), they will have all kinds of advice for you. They know what they're talking about, so reach out to them.

30. Find a room in a shared house with locals.

On food

31. Learn food words in the local language. You'll be eating three times a day in whatever country you're in.

32. Have snacks (e.g. nuts, fruit) handy. There's nothing worse than settling on something because you're too hungry and annoyed to keep looking for the perfect restaurant.

33. Carry a couple Cliff Bars with you. The train might be late, the bus ride might last four hours longer than you thought. Keep your mind working at its best by staying nourished.

34. Avoid fruits and veggies that can't be peeled or cooked when in developing countries. For more info, read Robin Esrock's How to travel in India and not get sick.

35. Eat street food. In many places, this is how the locals eat on a regular basis. It's a great opportunity to get an inside peak into the culture.

On taking taxis and other transport

36. Find out the procedure and price for getting a taxi. You will most likely get ripped off at least once, but don't worry about it. Let it be a learning lesson.

37. Pay attention to how things are done, like observing how the locals get on the bus and pay. Every place has their own system.

38. If you're driving in "sketchy" places, make sure the back doors are locked, keep your bags on the floor instead of on your lap, and be vigilant when stopping at intersections.

39. Always negotiate the price of a cab BEFORE you start towards your destination. If the cabbie is unwilling to agree on a price when you get in and he's not using a meter, get out and find another cab.

40. If you're on a long bus trip and there's a break, always make sure you keep an eye on the driver -- when he/she gets back on the bus, they're going to leave.

On staying safe

41. Don't keep all your cards and cash together. Use multiple pockets so if your cash gets ripped off, your ATM card doesn't have go with it.

42. Carry a "dummy" wallet with some expired credit and bank cards. Hand that over if you get robbed.

43. Don't carry your passport with you. Keep it locked in a safe if possible or hidden away. Carry a copy of the passport.

44. Keep your eyes peeled. Stay aware of your surroundings. If you get the feeling that something isn't right, pay attention to it. That feeling is real.

45. Don't get drunk. This is when you're at your most vulnerable and can make poor decisions.

46. Wear a jacket with an upper-breast zipper pocket where you can put passport/docs, even camera/wallet. Pretty impossible to thieve from.

47. Don't travel with a laptop unless it's necessary (e.g. your work). There are cyber cafes all over the world for easy Internet access.

48. Don't wear any jewelry, don't carry your dSLR in a brand new bag that screams CAMERA, don't carry a fat wallet in your back pocket, and don't pull out a big stash of money when you are paying for something at a counter.

49. Keep all your valuables and documents close to you when taking long distance bus rides. Not in your backpack that's in the luggage compartment.

On health while abroad

50. Drink lots of water. To help with jet lag, drink at least three liters in the 24 hours before your flight. Don't let yourself get thirsty.

51. Pack some ciprofloxacin (aka Cipro). This is a miracle antibiotic that is used to treat all kinds of things, from a bad stomach bug to a bladder infection or UTI.

52. Always bring Neosporin and Band-Aids. Neosporin is another miracle medicine. It's a simple over-the-counter ointment that will fight off infection in open cuts. It will also fight off any sort of rash or skin irritation and it can be tough to find in local pharmacies.

53. Carefully consider bringing malaria pills or not. Many places the health office says you need them, you don't. Inoculation/immunization is big business and they want to sell pills. Do your research carefully and read forums with advice from other travelers.

On connecting with locals

54. Learn some of the local language. It will not only give you confidence, but will give you a ready-made excuse to talk to anyone (to ask for help or practice).

55. Avoid getting trapped in expat bubbles -- tap their knowledge but don't use them as a comfort blanket.

.56. Keep a "promise book" with you (can just be the back of your travel journal). Use this to help keep the promises you make to the people you meet on the road (e.g. sending the photo you took of them). Be good to your word.

57. Don't just seek out conversation with your peers. Some of the best connections you can make abroad are with the very old or very young, even if all you get out of them is a warm smile.

On carrying electronics

58. If you do decide to take a laptop, get a cheap and light netbook. You have the benefit of having a familiar keyboard and if all the computers are taken at the cyber cafe, you can just find wifi somewhere.

59. ABC. Always Be Charging. Whenever you can, plug those electronics in and keep those batteries juiced.

60. Find out what adapters you need for your trip and make sure those are packed. Also make sure your electronics meet the electricity standards of your destination (110V AC, 220V AC, etc).

On taking photos without being obnoxious

61. Smile. This is key; it will make you seem approachable and non-threatening.

62. Make an effort to communicate even if you don't speak a common language besides "hello", "thanks", and "goodbye". Hand gestures work as good as verbal conversations.

63. Observe their work and, if possible, momentarily partake in their work with them to let them know it's not insignificant -- whether helping a porter take down the tent, or lending a hand to a baker. This also builds a quick transient level of trust.

64. Respect and sensitivity should always trump the perfect shot. Let people pray or meditate in peace. Stop following that monk or little kid around. Let people pull you into their lives when they are ready.

65. Make eye contact with the people you are photographing, even if you are taking pictures of their merchandise. Make eye contact with parents when taking photos of children.

66. Show your photos to your subjects. Make good on your promise if you tell them you will send them copies.

On haggling

67. Haggling is not a competition -- it's a way for the buyer and seller to agree on a price that is acceptable to both parties. Humor goes a long way in defusing heated situations.

68. Try to learn a few sentences like "How much" or "That's too expensive" in the local language. It'll make the vendor smile and often will agree to lower the price.

On border crossings

69. Know well in advance the visa requirements for all your destinations. Some can take weeks to obtain.

70. Have solid and prepared answers when crossing borders, especially between the U.S., UK, and Canada. Check out these tipslearned from an experience crossing from the U.S. to Canada.

71. Always check that your passport is stamped with a correct date before leaving the immigration center. If there's a mistake, you can get in trouble (not the immigration officer).

72. Never say your purpose for entering a country is "work" if you are a journalist on a press trip. You can avoid the 20 questions game this way and also ensure they don't try to charge you extra for a different visa.

On packing

73. Bring cable ties and Ziploc bags. Cable ties for holding things closed or tying bundles together. Ziploc bags for things that are wet (damp clothes, stuff that is stained, etc) or things that might break and mess up other things (sunscreen, that bottle of snake wine, etc).

74. Always pack a headlamp. You will be surprised at how often you will find a use for it.

75. Bring a sarong with you (men too). It can be useful for so many things like covering yourself in holy places, a bed sheet in shady hostels, a towel, a beach/park blanket. Tip: to keep cool at night in a hot place, soak the sarong and wrap it around you while you sleep.

On relationships

76. Sex with random people while you're traveling won't make you feel less lonely or forget the (ex)partner you have (had) back home.

77. Sometimes a stroll with someone you've just met, holding hands (with optional "make-out" session) in a plaza somewhere in Costa Rica or Mexico, feels better than anything.

78. You can't expect it, but it's possible to meet your life-partner while traveling. She or he could be right there on the bus with you.

79. Have reasonable expectations (or, better yet, none at all!). If you take a trip to heal a broken heart, be aware that you could potentially feel worse.

On place
80. There's a tendency sometimes to think "this place will always be here. I can do more here later." Places change a lot faster than you can imagine. Whatever it is you need to do, do it now.

25 Romantic Honeymoon Destinations

25 Romantic Honeymoon Destinations

25 romantic places where couples can simply enjoy each other — which is really the whole point.

A HONEYMOON IS a once in a lifetime trip, and choosing a romantic destination requires careful planning. While other trips might focus on an activity, like skiing, the honeymoon is a chance for newlyweds to focus on each other.

Every couple will imagine something different when planning their perfectly romantic honeymoon, but hopefully the destinations below will generate some ideas.

25. Isle of Skye, Scotland

A misty island off the northwestern coast of Scotland, Skye is best for honeymooning couples who might enjoy the sound of rain on an old slate roof. Most villages have gracious inns with big fireplaces, questionable plumbing, and plenty of local whiskey.

“The whole island is full of beautiful views, lochs and mountains,” writes Matador memberMichelle Waite. “All of Skye is great for walks and lovely drives.”

24. Luang Prabang, Laos

Many travel writers, myself included, have pegged Luang Prabang as the most romantic town inSoutheast Asia. A flurry of new boutique hotels and classy restaurants don’t detract from the languid charm of the old city.

Don’t miss a day trip to Kuang Si waterfall, or a ferry ride across the Mekong to the village of Ban Xieng Mene.

23. Charlevoix, Quebec

Honeymooning in Quebec is a smart choice for North American couples who are tempted by Europe but lack the time or money to cross the Atlantic.

Montreal is big and cosmopolitan, Quebec City is steeped in history, but my pick for the most romantic spot in the province is tiny Baie St. Paul, the cultural center of the Charlevoix region, with countless art galleries, cozy inns, and easy access to spectacular hiking trails.

22. Baja, Mexico

Many honeymooners are looking for sun, sand, and value. There are plenty of beach resorts inBaja, and although I usually don’t recommend the resort experience, it’s not a bad choice for honeymooning couples who simply want to bask in marital bliss.

There’s a more exciting side of Baja beyond the resort gates, though, and plenty of deserted lagoons where travelers can find solitude.

21. Dominica, Caribbean

Dominica is known as the Nature Island — it’s lush, green, and mountainous, with villages hanging onto the edge of volcanoes, overlooking the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. Trails in the tropical forest lead to waterfalls, plunge pools, and hot springs. Steamy.

20. Kyoto, Japan

The great travel writer Pico Iyer once went to Kyoto to pursue a monastic lifestyle and studyZen Buddhism, but he ended up falling in love instead.

Like Luang Prabang, Kyoto is dotted with ancient temples that evoke a sense of calm and wonder. Japanese hospitality and grace is unparalleled, and those who can afford to stay in a traditional inn should not pass up the opportunity.

19. Big Sur, California

Big Sur is an epic chunk of sweeping California coastline where lovers can wander for days and weeks between hot spring pools and old growth forests overlooking the Pacific.

Finish off the honeymoon by cruising up to San Francisco on Highway 1 and celebrating with a bottle of champagne and a big Chinatown meal.

18. The Big Island, Hawaii

OK, any island in Hawaii would make for a terrific honeymoon destination, but the Big Islandgets my vote because it’s less crowded than Maui or Oahu.

Fewer tourists doesn’t translate into a lack of things to do, however. There’s plenty to explore on the Big Island, including black sand beaches, tropical waterfalls, flowing lava, and horse ranches. Don’t miss the sunrise from the summit of Mauna Kea.

17. The Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Cozy inns, quiet country roads, questionable weather…are you starting to notice a theme?

The Kingdom refers to the rural northeast corner of Vermont, a scattering of communities that manage to be both progressive and conservative, heartily welcoming and fiercely independent.

Instead of choosing a destination for day trips, just get lost on winding dirt roads that always seem to lead to friendly family farms. If you’re planning an autumn wedding, foliage in the Kingdom is spectacular.

16. Wine Country, Argentina

The vineyards of Mendoza and Salta in northwestern Argentina produce terrific red wines against the dramatic backdrop of the Andes.

Argentina is a less expensive destination than wine regions of California or Europe, so couples can take their time, soak up the atmosphere, and maybe even sign up for tango lessons.

15. Costa Rica

With two tropical coastlines, pristine rainforest, and plenty of spider monkeys, Costa Rica is a great choice for couples looking for a combination of ecotourism, adrenaline thrills, and simple relaxation.

14. Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a classy Southern town on the Carolina coast with cobblestone streets, historic mansions, and incredible shrimp ‘n grits brunches.

Sea-kayaking in the marshes, long walks on barrier island beaches, and outdoor concerts on summer nights round out the Charleston experience.

13. Provence, France

Eat cheese, drink wine, make love. Oui, Provence!

12. Antarctica

There are moments on an Antarctic cruise that will take your breath away, but there are also a lot of hours to spend keeping warm in your cabin. This downtime will be more like uptime for honeymooners.

11. Rome, Italy

There aren’t many cities on this list, but Rome demands an exception. It’s a city built for wandering between ancient neighborhoods and discovering hole-in-the-wall restaurants, live music venues, and sidewalk cafes.

If you insist on an urban honeymoon, Rome is a classic romantic choice.

10. Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo, you ask? Are you serious?

Yes. Syria’s Aleppo is one of the oldest cities in the world, with an epic souk, courtyard restaurants, and a massive citadel commanding a view over the city.

Luxury hotels like the Sheraton are not far from the old city. Don’t miss a walk through the alleyways of the Armenian Christian quarter.

9. Cambodia

Cambodia will tug hard on your heartstrings, but there’s a lot of hope in the country these days that balances out the poverty and the crippling legacy of civil war.

Don’t miss the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, but leave plenty of time to relax on the Gulf of Thailand in Kep, exploring ruined villas and feasting on fresh crab.

8. Turks and Caicos Islands, Caribbean

Jay-Z may fly private jets to the Turks and Caicos, but New Yorkers can get there easily too, now that Jet Blue has premiered non-stop service between Providenciales and JFK.

Provo, as the main island is called, is where you’ll find almost all of the resorts, but the islands get more charming as you move east along the chain, culminating with tiny Salt Cay, where couples can walk for hours on North Beach without crossing another footprint.

7. Maine Coast

It’s not the best place for swimming, but the Maine shoreline has rugged charm and wicked good seafood. The whole coast is gorgeous, but don’t miss Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island.

6. Bequia, Caribbean

Like Salt Cay in the Turks and Caicos, Bequia — part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines — is a bit of a backwater, but the slow pace and easygoing atmosphere is perfect for honeymooners exhausted by the stress of hosting their wedding.

Travel writer Eva Holland makes Bequia sound idyllic in her Complete Guide to Bequia:

The island is safe, compact, and enjoys perfect weather pretty well year round. So take a walk. Take a nap on the beach. Drink a papaya juice and watch the sun go down.

5. South Africa

The afterglow of the 2010 World Cup might be fading, but South Africa is one of the most culturally vibrant and naturally stunning countries in the world.

Live it up in Capetown and then head to one of the Singita game reserves to stay at a luxurious lodge and get up close to lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo.

4. Portugal

Tiny Portugal sometimes gets overshadowed by its massive former colony, Brazil, but the combination of castles, beach towns, and distinctive local wines is tough to beat.

Lisbon is one of the oldest capitals in Europe and many of the homes are built with thick stone walls, good for keeping cool in summer and toasty warm in the wintertime.

3. Morocco

Morocco is an incredibly diverse country, both in terms of natural landscapes and cultural heritage. In one trip, you can chill on the beach in Essaouira — where Jimi Hendrix used to hang out — visit the largest mosque in the world, and trek through massive sand dunes in the Sahara.

2. Tahiti

Nothing has ever gone wrong in Tahiti.

1. Switzerland

Straight-laced Switzerland might not be a sultry or exotic destination, but honeymooning couples shouldn’t need much extra romantic inspiration.

Switzerland is stunningly beautiful, safe, and orderly. Couples can simply enjoy each other — which is really the whole point of the trip.